November 2, 2011

The FOMC statement was pretty gloomy:

To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at levels consistent with the dual mandate, the Committee decided today to continue its program to extend the average maturity of its holdings of securities as announced in September. The Committee is maintaining its existing policies of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. The Committee will regularly review the size and composition of its securities holdings and is prepared to adjust those holdings as appropriate.

The Committee also decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that economic conditions–including low rates of resource utilization and a subdued outlook for inflation over the medium run–are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through mid-2013

Of perhaps more interest was the voting:

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; Elizabeth A. Duke; Richard W. Fisher; Narayana Kocherlakota; Charles I. Plosser; Sarah Bloom Raskin; Daniel K. Tarullo; and Janet L. Yellen. Voting against the action was Charles L. Evans, who supported additional policy accommodation at this time.

I reported on October 13 that Kocherlakota was decrying Opertation Twist, and extracted a big piece of Fisher’s dissent on September 27. This time, however, the dissenter wants looser policy. Uh-oh.

Speaking of Central Banks, Lapdog Carney’s opening statement to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance discussed the inflation target:

At the time of the last renewal, the Bank committed to continue its research into potential improvements that might build on the success of the current framework. A concerted and ambitious research agenda focused on evaluating whether two specific changes – targeting a lower rate of inflation or a path for the level of prices – could provide significant net benefits to the Canadian economy and Canadian households. Subsequently, the experience of the global financial and economic crisis prompted the Bank to add a third item to its research agenda – asking to what extent monetary policy should take account of financial stability considerations.

Allow me to highlight just some of the initiatives and work undertaken by the Bank over the past five years. Since 2008, we have had three major conferences for our staff and other researchers to present work on inflation targeting and the monetary policy framework. The most important of these research papers have been published in three special issues of the Bank of Canada Review – Winter 2007–08, Spring 2009 and Summer 2010. As well, Governing Council members have spoken regularly and publicly about the issues.

The research he mentions is basically with respect to Price Level Targetting, which has been discussed on PrefBlog and which I favour. What makes this interesting, however, is that there was no mention of the rumoured move to a dual mandate:

In an all-party vote on Thursday, members of the House of Commons finance committee decided they will hold at least one hearing on whether the bank’s mandate should be changed to include targets beyond inflation, such as full employment or nominal gross domestic product.

However such large-scale changes appear to be off the table.

“The Governor and I have discussed this [inflation targeting mandate renewal] at some length and I think we are understanding each other. We are … in line with each other on this,” Mr. Flaherty said. “So we’re not talking about a new policy or a new mandate for the Bank of Canada. What we are talking about is being more explicit about what the mandate of the Bank of Canada is.”

Mr. Flaherty’s comments are in line with a report by The Globe and Mail on Monday that the 2-per-cent target is expected to be renewed with a more forceful assertion of what the bank calls “flexible inflation targeting,” or the governor’s right to take longer than usual to bring inflation to the 2-per-cent target.

BIS has released a Consultative Document: Capitalisation of bank exposures to central counterparties:

CCPs can improve the safety and soundness of OTC derivatives markets through the multilateral netting of exposures, the enforcement of robust risk management standards, including mandatory posting of initial margin, and the mutualisation of losses should a clearing member fail.

Gee, mutualisation of losses is really working out well with respect to Greek debt in Europe, isn’t it? The banks have decided they’re in the business of making a profit:

The European Union’s plan for recapitalizing banks has “serious problems” that will hurt economic growth and make it harder for some nations to borrow, the Institute of International Finance said.

There is a “clear need” to restore confidence in Europe’s banks, IIF Managing Director Charles Dallara said today in a letter to the Group of 20 nations on the eve of a summit in Cannes, France. Yet the extra capital requirements at the center of the EU’s strategy will come with “considerable cost” because of a flawed scope and approach, he said.

Banks are likely to decide that the costs of raising capital are “prohibitive,” Dallara said in his letter to the G-20. Rather than accept forced injections, banks are more likely to sell risky assets and cut back on lending, which will make it harder for countries on Europe’s periphery to access capital markets.

“The market value of the debt of the countries most under scrutiny is likely to decline further as banks unload sovereign bonds,” Dallara said. “This is contrary to the goal of stabilizing and underpinning the outlook for sovereign debt in Europe.”

If banks acted to meet the new requirements relying only on retained earnings and a reduction in credit supply, “overall credit exposure to the euro-area private sector would need to decline by at least 5 percent,” he said. “It is essential that the higher European capital requirements are a temporary measure as intended, not sustained over time and not seen as a new standard to be imposed more widely.”

The Europeans are furious with Papandreou:

Crisis talks were under way in the French resort of Cannes on the eve of a Group of 20 summit after Papandreou was summoned by European counterparts to explain his call for a referendum that risks delaying aid the country needs to avert default. In Athens, Greek lawmakers debated a confidence motion that could bring down his government.

The stewards of the euro “won’t accept” a break from last week’s agreement, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters in Cannes. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “we have to get to the point where we know exactly what comes next.”

European Commission President Jose Barroso said the referendum may hold up Greece receiving 8 billion euros ($11 billion) of already delayed support. “In the European Union, we have agreed on far-reaching measures to support Greece,” he said in a statement. “But for those measures to be implemented it is critically important to have stability in the country.”

Europe’s woes are returning G-20 leaders to the crisis footing they adopted three years ago after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in Cannes that Europe faces questions that “need to be answered and answered quickly,” while Chinese President Hu Jintao told Lagarde the crisis must be “prevented from spreading further.”

The European royalty is talking tough:

The euro declined, trading 0.7 percent from a three-week low against the dollar, as European leaders said Greece will hold a referendum next month to determine whether it will stay in the 17-nation currency.

The euro dropped against most of its 16 major counterparts as French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Greece won’t receive a “single cent” in aid without holding to its bailout agreement’s terms.

Crisis talks ended in the French resort of Cannes with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Sarkozy withholding 8 billion euros ($11 billion) of assistance to Greece and warning it will surrender all European aid if the nation votes against a bailout package agreed last week.

The hardball tactics open the door for the first time for a country to leave the 12-year-old currency bloc that its founders declared was “irrevocable.”

Remember all that leverage that was going to save the world?:

Market turmoil has got the best of Europe’s big bailout fund, forcing it to pull its latest bond issue.

On Wednesday the European Financial Stability Facility confirmed that its €3-billion ($4.12-billion U.S.) bond offering, intended to finance the next bailout loan to Ireland, has been postponed because of “market conditions,” according to the group’s spokesperson.

The earliest the deal could come back is next week, and the new timeline could cause trouble. Ireland has €4.4-billion worth of debt coming due on Nov. 11, according to FT Alphaville.

OSFI has released a letter regarding the Financial Stability Board Principles on Mortgage Lending. They note that they expect to see a LOT MORE paperwork and cover-your-ass bullshit in the future. My idea, that OSFI should surcharge risk-weightings for mortgage exposure – or any other kind of exposure, for that matter – when this exposure greatly exceeds historical norms (as it does, er, now) has not yet been mentioned. The FSB document is titled Consultation Paper: FSB Principles for Sound Residential Mortgage Underwriting Practices:

As the global crisis demonstrated, the consequences of weak residential mortgage underwriting practices in one country can be transferred globally through securitisation of mortgages underwritten to weak standards. As such, it is important to have sound underwriting practices at the point at which a mortgage loan is originally made.

In other words, caveat vendor. Gee, what a wonderful world it will be when we finally have enough rules, eh?

Regardless of whether or not there actually is money missing from segregated accounts at MF Global, their sloppy bookkeeping cost them a deal:

Corzine, 64, steered MF Global into bankruptcy proceedings on Oct. 31 after increasing risk-taking at the firm, including investments in European sovereign debt that roiled markets. Discrepancies over the missing funds that were used to back futures trades sent Interactive Brokers Group Inc. (IBKR) fleeing from a potential acquisition that may have averted the filing, according to a board member at the Greenwich, Connecticut, firm.

“The board certainly considered that purchase and stepped away from it at a point where it became clear there were lots of uncertainties about the accounts and segregated funds,” Hans Stoll, an Interactive Brokers director and a professor of finance at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, said yesterday in a telephone interview.

When your contemplating doing a big deal on 48 hours notice, the last thing you want is uncertainty over the bookkeeping! However, everything is highly unclear at the moment, at least to the public:

.MF Global Holdings Ltd. (MF) customers may have to wait years to get their money back if the futures broker is sued, according to Frederick Grede, the liquidation trustee overseeing the bankruptcy of Sentinel Management Group Inc.

“People should expect that the money on deposit with MF Global will be tied up for some time,” Grede said in a telephone interview today. Grede, a former chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Futures Exchange, has sought to recover about $600 million of customer money from Sentinel, the futures broker that filed for bankruptcy in 2007. “If litigation is involved it well could be years” for MF Global customers, he said.

The day it filed the eighth-largest U.S. bankruptcy on Oct. 31, New York-based MF Global disclosed a shortfall in customer accounts that people with knowledge of the matter said may be about $700 million. CME Group Inc., which has the authority to audit those accounts, said yesterday it didn’t know how much client money was missing.

Grede said it was likely that the client funds won’t be released until the bankruptcy court approves the decision. “To move the money out of MF Global, they have to get the trustee to agree, and I believe the trustee will want the court to agree as well,” he said.

Experience suggests to me that the actual players know very well what the answer to the segregated account mystery is, but are posturing for political purposes. However, the accusations are getting more specific:

MF Global Holdings Ltd. (MF) may have transferred customer money last week following an audit by CME Group Inc. (CME), which has regulatory authority over the futures broker.

The transfer “may have been designed to avoid detection in so far as MF Global did not disclose or report such transfers” to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission or CME Group, the Chicago-based exchange owner said today an e-mailed statement.

All MF Global customer positions held at CME Group, and not third-party custodians such as banks, are accounted for, the company said in the statement. “MF Global’s customer positions on CME Group exchanges were and continue to be substantially over-collateralized,” CME Group said. The “apparent shortfall” was in accounts held by MF Global, CME Group said.

In other words, if you had an account with MF Global with $100,000 cash, and your contracts actually required $75,000 of exchange collateral, that part would have been posted OK, but – it is alleged – they were naughty with the remaining $25,000. Even more specific is the claim:

MF Global Inc.’s commodity customer funds have a shortfall of $633 million, or about 11.6 percent, out of a segregated fund requirement of about $5.4 billion, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said.

At a hearing today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, lawyers for the CFTC said the trustee for the bankrupt broker- dealer may recover the shortfall.

“It now appears that the firm made subsequent transfers of customer segregated funds in a manner that may have been designed to avoid detection,” as the transactions weren’t reported to regulators until Oct. 31, it said.

However, it’s still unclear to me just what has happened, or is claimed to have happened. The truth will out, but, as is always the case, the nature of that truth will only be reported after a few years have passed. The company is represented in court by the trustee – not by lawyers appointed by former management – and the trustee has an interest in painting as black a picture as possible in order to maximize his fee income.

I have noticed not just one, but two interesting juxtapositions in the press recently. The first is some weeping and wailing over smoking in hospitals, reflecting the usual arrogant mindset of the medical profession:

As an emerging standard for Canadian hospitals, smoke-free property is intended to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke, communicate denormalization messages about smoking and enhance tobacco cessation.

However, noncompliance and inadequate treatment for tobacco dependence appear to be the norm. Enhancing appropriate health care for patients who use tobacco to include consistent and effective treatment for the symptoms of withdrawal may improve this problem. Reframing tobacco use as an addiction may be an important root strategy to shift practise norms. People who smoke will have symptoms of withdrawal during a stay in a hospital with a smoke-free policy. With the advent of these policies, abstinence support with effective management of withdrawal symptoms for patients in hospital is imperative.

Harm reduction, as defended by the Supreme Court, is given short shrift in the study – mentioned, but very briefly and not in so many words.

The other juxtapositon involved great alarm over string attached to Chinese funding of US universities:

The Confucius Institute at North Carolina State University made its feelings known after the Dalai Lama accepted an invitation to speak in 2009 on the Raleigh campus. China’s military took over Tibet in 1959, exiling the spiritual leader considered a traitor in China for advocating Tibetan self-rule.

Confucius Institute director Bailian Li told North Carolina State provost Warwick Arden that a visit by the Lama could disrupt “some of the strong relationships we were developing with China,” Arden said. Besides the institute, joint programs include student exchanges, summer research and faculty collaboration.

And this was published on the same day as a piece about US de-funding of UNESCO:

A day after the Palestinians won full membership in the UN group with 107 votes in favor and 14 against, the U.S. cut off its funding, almost a quarter of the agency’s budget. Moreover, swing votes the Palestinians need to bolster their support on the Security Council for full UN membership have evaporated.

Today’s numbers are all provisional (although probably pretty good) as TMX DataLinx continues to experience networking problems.

It was a good day for the Canadian preferred share market, with PerpetualDiscounts up 10bp, FixedResets winning 15bp and DeemedRetractibles gaining 14bp. There were only three issues in the Performance Highlights table, but all three were positive. Volume was a little light.

PerpetualDiscounts now yield 5.44%, equivalent to 7.07% interest at the standard equivalency factor of 1.3x. Long corporates now yield about 4.95%, so the pre-tax interest equivalency spread (also called the Seniority Spread) is now about 210bp, a slight widening from the 205bp reported on October 26.

HIMIPref™ Preferred Indices
These values reflect the December 2008 revision of the HIMIPref™ Indices

Values are provisional and are finalized monthly
Index Mean
(at bid)
Mod Dur
Issues Day’s Perf. Index Value
Ratchet 0.00 % 0.00 % 0 0.00 0 0.8581 % 2,094.1
FixedFloater 4.88 % 4.60 % 23,864 17.18 1 1.0390 % 3,155.1
Floater 3.44 % 3.44 % 155,094 18.65 2 0.8581 % 2,261.0
OpRet 4.97 % 1.81 % 50,783 1.51 7 0.2703 % 2,467.7
SplitShare 5.77 % 6.40 % 61,386 5.16 3 0.2391 % 2,507.3
Interest-Bearing 0.00 % 0.00 % 0 0.00 0 0.2703 % 2,256.5
Perpetual-Premium 5.58 % 2.42 % 106,332 0.10 13 0.2394 % 2,144.2
Perpetual-Discount 5.36 % 5.44 % 110,078 14.76 17 0.0953 % 2,271.2
FixedReset 5.12 % 3.08 % 210,336 2.45 62 0.1540 % 2,345.2
Deemed-Retractible 5.05 % 4.45 % 219,543 3.92 46 0.1364 % 2,213.3
Performance Highlights
Issue Index Change Notes
GWO.PR.N FixedReset 1.02 % YTW SCENARIO
Maturity Type : Hard Maturity
Maturity Date : 2022-01-31
Maturity Price : 25.00
Evaluated at bid price : 24.80
Bid-YTW : 3.41 %
BAM.PR.G FixedFloater 1.04 % YTW SCENARIO
Maturity Type : Limit Maturity
Maturity Date : 2041-11-02
Maturity Price : 25.00
Evaluated at bid price : 19.45
Bid-YTW : 4.60 %
BAM.PR.M Perpetual-Discount 1.17 % YTW SCENARIO
Maturity Type : Limit Maturity
Maturity Date : 2041-11-02
Maturity Price : 22.20
Evaluated at bid price : 22.56
Bid-YTW : 5.31 %
Volume Highlights
Issue Index Shares
BAM.PR.Z FixedReset 506,476 New issue settled today.
Maturity Type : Limit Maturity
Maturity Date : 2041-11-02
Maturity Price : 23.10
Evaluated at bid price : 25.00
Bid-YTW : 4.57 %
HSE.PR.A FixedReset 93,687 Anonymous sold 16,700 to TD and blocks of 10,000 and 15,100 to RBC, all at 25.40. RBC crossed 35,000 at the same price.
Maturity Type : Limit Maturity
Maturity Date : 2041-11-02
Maturity Price : 23.34
Evaluated at bid price : 25.43
Bid-YTW : 3.42 %
IFC.PR.A FixedReset 58,435 Nesbitt crossed 44,000 at 25.15.
Maturity Type : Hard Maturity
Maturity Date : 2022-01-31
Maturity Price : 25.00
Evaluated at bid price : 25.12
Bid-YTW : 3.92 %
CM.PR.E Perpetual-Discount 55,532 Desjardins crossed 25,000 at 25.00.
Maturity Type : Limit Maturity
Maturity Date : 2041-11-02
Maturity Price : 24.69
Evaluated at bid price : 25.00
Bid-YTW : 5.62 %
BNS.PR.Z FixedReset 38,483 Recent secondary offering.
Maturity Type : Hard Maturity
Maturity Date : 2022-01-31
Maturity Price : 25.00
Evaluated at bid price : 24.95
Bid-YTW : 3.34 %
MFC.PR.E FixedReset 37,341 Scotia crossed 16,000 at 26.20.
Maturity Type : Call
Maturity Date : 2014-09-19
Maturity Price : 25.00
Evaluated at bid price : 26.06
Bid-YTW : 4.30 %
There were 27 other index-included issues trading in excess of 10,000 shares.
Wide Spread Highlights
Issue Index Quote Data and Yield Notes
BNA.PR.E SplitShare Quote: 23.30 – 23.80
Spot Rate : 0.5000
Average : 0.4035

Maturity Type : Hard Maturity
Maturity Date : 2017-12-10
Maturity Price : 25.00
Evaluated at bid price : 23.30
Bid-YTW : 6.40 %

GWO.PR.L Deemed-Retractible Quote: 25.20 – 25.59
Spot Rate : 0.3900
Average : 0.2983

Maturity Type : Hard Maturity
Maturity Date : 2022-01-31
Maturity Price : 25.00
Evaluated at bid price : 25.20
Bid-YTW : 5.65 %

TD.PR.I FixedReset Quote: 27.33 – 27.56
Spot Rate : 0.2300
Average : 0.1497

Maturity Type : Call
Maturity Date : 2014-07-31
Maturity Price : 25.00
Evaluated at bid price : 27.33
Bid-YTW : 2.74 %

ELF.PR.F Perpetual-Discount Quote: 22.35 – 22.73
Spot Rate : 0.3800
Average : 0.3006

Maturity Type : Limit Maturity
Maturity Date : 2041-11-02
Maturity Price : 22.06
Evaluated at bid price : 22.35
Bid-YTW : 5.97 %

MFC.PR.B Deemed-Retractible Quote: 21.95 – 22.29
Spot Rate : 0.3400
Average : 0.2616

Maturity Type : Hard Maturity
Maturity Date : 2022-01-31
Maturity Price : 25.00
Evaluated at bid price : 21.95
Bid-YTW : 6.40 %

MFC.PR.E FixedReset Quote: 26.06 – 26.29
Spot Rate : 0.2300
Average : 0.1554

Maturity Type : Call
Maturity Date : 2014-09-19
Maturity Price : 25.00
Evaluated at bid price : 26.06
Bid-YTW : 4.30 %

2 Responses to “November 2, 2011”

  1. […] November 2 I mentioned some projections that some banks would meet their new capital requirements by backing […]

  2. […] funds is a better regulatory career move. Assiduous Readers will doubtless remember that on November 2 I wrote: Experience suggests to me that the actual players know very well what the answer to the […]

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