Archive for the ‘Financial Markets/ Finance’ Category

Political economy behind resurgence of development financial institutions across the world..

March 20, 2015

Jaimini Bhagwati has a piece on this interesting development in world political economy. This time the instrument is DFIs (development financial institutions), a concept which was dying a slow death.

China has taken a lead in setting some Asia based DFIs which is crating ruffles in world polity:


Financial inclusion – issues for central banks…

March 19, 2015


How the banking industry breeds dishonesty?

March 12, 2015

New research on the topic.

In an experiment, people chated more when they were made aware of their identity of being a banker:


What do investment banks do?

March 11, 2015

What were once the cynosure of all eyes are now questioned. Investment banks or I-banks have played a critical role in giving finance both a good and a bad name.

The question is what do i-banks do? How are they different from traditional banks?  Kushal Balluck of BoE  has a nice note on this:


How Zimbabwe was brought from crisis to stability…

March 4, 2015

Great article by Tendai Biti, the former finance minister of Zimbabwe.He was appointed the finance minister in 2009 under highly taxing times. The article narrates his experiences on how he brought the economy back from complete disaster.

And yes he was a lawyer who learnt economics on the job and did a great job:


When I was in college, people wanted to figure out cancer cure and by 1990s everyone wanted to be a hedge fund manager….

March 3, 2015


Bank of England’s multiple challenges..

February 25, 2015

Bank of England is fighting many a battle and is trying hard to keep itself in the game. UK economy’s dependence on financial sector is like putting all eggs in one basket. As most eggs are wither broke or cracked, BoE and Govt are trying to play a rescue act.

It just issued these guidelines which will punish top bankers if they are found messing around:

The Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) has today set out how it will hold senior managers in banks, building societies and designated investment firms to account if they do not take reasonable steps to prevent or stop breaches of regulatory requirements in their areas of responsibility.

In June 2013, the Parliamentary Commission for Banking Standards (PCBS) published its report “Changing Banking for Good” setting out recommendations for legislative and other action to improve professional standards and culture in the UK banking industry. This was followed by legislation in the Banking Reform Act 2013.

The Banking Reform Act introduced new powers which allow the PRA and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to impose regulatory sanctions on individual senior managers when a bank breaches a regulatory requirement if the senior manager responsible for the area where the breach occurred cannot demonstrate that they took reasonable steps to avoid or stop it.

The PRA has today published guidance for banks clarifying how it will exercise this new power; including examples of the kind of actions which may constitute reasonable preventive steps and how firms and individuals may evidence them.

The Banking Reform Act also creates a separate offence which could result in individual senior managers being held criminally liable for reckless decisions leading to the failure of a bank. This new criminal offence will, however, be subject to the usual standard of proof in criminal cases (‘beyond reasonable doubt’).

Before the crisis, such things done by central banks and that too in UK were just such a taboo. I mean how could you ask bankers to behave? Markets shall take care..

In another initiative, it has launched a fancy program – One Bank research. So was it a multiple bank agenda earlier?:

The Bank of England today launched its new One Bank Research Agenda – an ambitious and wide-ranging framework to transform the way research is done at the Bank. 

The Agenda aims to improve the coordination and openness of our research across all policy areas, to ensure the Bank makes the best use of our data, and to cultivate an extensive research community that spans the Bank and beyond.

After in-depth consultation with researchers across the Bank and the wider academic community, the Bank has developed five core themes to guide its research: Policy frameworks and interactions; Evaluating regulation, resolution and market structures; Policy operationalisation and implementation; New data, methodologies and approaches; and Response to fundamental change.

They are sharing a lot of historical data under this and should be good for researchers.

the Bank published a supporting discussion paper as well as a high level summary of the five research themes, and released a number of new Bank datasets for use by external researchers. 

Finally, to catalyse interest in the One Bank Research Agenda, the Governor today announced two new competitions sponsored by the Bank – a data visualisation competition using the newly released Bank datasets, and a One Bank research paper competition.

The Governor summarised today’s launch of the One Bank Research Agenda, saying: “Economies are complex, dynamic and constantly evolving systems that are underpinned by social interactions and behavioural change, shaped by fundamental forces like technology and globalisation and supported – or at times disrupted – by finance.

Policymakers need research to help understand these phenomena and to craft our responses to them. And research can make some of its most effective contributions by speaking to the priorities of policy.

Research can help us to discover insights and build them into our policymaking processes.

By focussing on a clear set of research priorities, by opening up our datasets, and by creating tighter links between policymakers and researchers, both within the Bank and across the broader research community, we can advance our mission – promoting the good of the people of the United Kingdom.”

Becoming more and more multiple indicator targeting central bank. The new research themes are also on similar lines.

China’s GIFT city model..

February 25, 2015

Finance is hot again. Despite the west having  serious troubles over regulating their finance sector, the eastern world remains excited.

Indian FinMin recently released a paper on Finance SEZs  where the special zone will have complete freedom in finance. Just like in trade, SEZs are allowed near complete freedom same thing can be applied to Finance SEZs as well. This is of course keeping GIFT city in mind, Indian PM’s pet project when he was the CM of Gujarat.

Interestingly, China has already done something on those lines (how come they are always ahead when we make most of the noise and hype??). Prof. John Whalley has a piece on this:


Politicians too benefited from toxic loans before the 2008 crisis…

February 12, 2015

HBSWK discusses a paper on the topic.

It is based on French politicians who have used fancy finance to make political inroads:

Talk of the recent financial crisis often falls into a simplistic narrative of villainous banks, marketing toxic financial products to innocent customers who did not understand their risks. Among the storied victims are municipal governments that took out loans with initially low interest rates, only to see the rates skyrocket when the crisis hit. Many mayors cried foul, insisting that they had been hoodwinked.

But were the local politicians really unwitting fools? “There is no doubt the transactions were very risky, as interest rates on these loans frequently exceeded 20 percent,” says Boris Vallée, an assistant professor in the Finance unit at Harvard Business School. “The question is, Did local politicians get fooled into engaging in risky transactions, or did they take the risks knowingly, opting for the short-term benefits in spite of the risks?”

Vallée recently tackled that question in the paper The Political Economy of Financial Innovation: Evidence from Local Governments, cowritten with Christophe Pérignon, a finance professor at HEC Paris. The study offers empirical evidence that politicians routinely used high-risk loans on purpose, for political gain, in spite of the risks. Furthermore, the strategy worked: Toxic loans helped incumbent mayors get reelected.

The researchers focused their study on France, having gained access to two valuable data sets: The first contained the entire debt portfolio for most of the 300 largest French local governments as of December 31, 2007; and the second contained the loan-level data for all the outstanding structured transactions of Dexia, the leading bank in the market as of December 31, 2009. (Shortly thereafter, Dexia fell apart in the European debt crisis.) The data showed that so-called structured loans accounted for 20.1 percent of the 52 billion euros in total debt for the municipal sample.

Similar to subprime mortgages, structured loans usually carry a few years of guaranteed low interest, which allows local governments to reduce the cost of their debt quickly and obviously. But after the honeymoon period, these loans end up carrying highly variable interest rates resulting from exotic exposures. For example, the City of Saint-Etienne saw the interest rates on one of its major loans rise from 4 percent to 24 percent in 2010, due to the depreciation of the pound sterling. In total, losses on toxic loans doubled the city’s debt levels.

The politicians reaped rewards till gains were made. Post-crisis they blamed it on banks for misselling:

Vallée and Pérignon analyzed how the politicians used the loans—whether they had invested the money in equipment or services for the city, or used the cash to lower taxes for their constituents, or both. It turned out that for the most part, they had used the short-term savings from the loans to lower taxes. “This action is consistent with politicians seeking reelection by catering to taxpayers’ preference for low taxes, which represents a likely channel for the previous result on the effects on reelection,” the researchers write.

The strategy apparently worked. Controlling for potential selection effects, the researchers found that using structured loans led to an increase in the likelihood that a politician was reelected.

“These financial innovative products appear, therefore, to have aligned banks’ incentives, as the transactions were highly profitable, with local politicians [who] had an interest in getting reelected,” Vallée says. “However, this happened at a large cost to the taxpayer, as the positive effects of the loans were short-lived, and interest on toxic loans ballooned when the crisis hit.”

In the wake of the financial crisis, many local politicians filed suits against their banks, claiming that they had not comprehended the risky nature of the loans they undertook.

“Local politicians have been vocal ex post both in the media and in [the] French Congress,” the researchers write. “For instance, in his testimony before the French Congress’s committee on toxic loans, the deputy mayor of the City of Saint-Etienne, who originally decided to take on some toxic loans, stated that ‘[he] was not able to read the information [he] received because [he was] not a financial expert.’ “

Vallée, who holds a doctorate in finance from HEC Paris, is currently working on a study of byzantine banking behavior toward individual investors. But in the case of structured loans, he argues that a borrower need not be a financial expert to realize the stakes. “They are not that complex, and after spending 10 minutes on it, someone with a college education will be able to understand the risks,” he says.

As this blog keeps should be weary of anything in high and sophisticated finance. Whes it bites back, it bites hard..

Persistent overoptimism about economic growth….

February 3, 2015

Kevin Lansing and Benjamin Pyle look at this perennial issue of being overoptimistic on economic growth.

They question the dominant rational expectations theory:


How British ATMs were robbed using explosive gas?

February 2, 2015

Straight out of movies this one.


Technology continues to make banking easier..

January 30, 2015

Increasingly, banking is becoming all about technology.

India’s low profile but highly valued HDFC Bank comes out with this interesting mobile app for remitting money:


Would Keynes Have Been Fired as a Money Manager Today?

January 30, 2015

Interesting post by Ben Carlson.

Keynes managed an average return of 13.2% in the period 1928-45. The markets gave a return of -0.5% in the same period. This was an exceptional performance albeit came with much higher volatility. So would he have been fired for this performance?


Adam Smith on the financial crisis..

January 29, 2015

Well, what will the great Scottish say on the recent financial crisis?

He will not be one bit happy:

Tired of lightweights bickering over the financial crisis and its aftermath? Of economic upheaval becoming merely fodder for intellectually dishonest political campaigns? Wonder what biggest thinkers might have to say? Our efforts to consult the giants of economics have been hampered by an unfortunate fact: many of the most important ones are not only dead, but they died long before governments and central banks began to concoct such unconventional policy tools such as quantitative easing. That explains their absence from the argument—so far.

In an attempt to cross this divide, notwithstanding the obstacles, your correspondent attended a lecture at the Harvard Club of New York on January 21st by James Otteson, a professor of political economy at Wake Forest University and the editor of a new book, “What Adam Smith Knew, Moral Lessons on Capitalism from its Greatest Champions and Fiercest Opponents”. And he asked what the great Scottish economist might have to say about the most recent crisis.

Mr Otteson was kind enough to channel Mr Smith in response by citing a string of illuminating passages. It is no surprise that the man who coined the term “invisible hand” would be no fan of overt government intervention. His dissent could be split into three intertwined categories: the temptation of governments to meddle at long-term cost to society; the dangers of paper money; and how the issues of debt and money shift wealth from the future to the present. That, he thought, constitutes a form of generational theft.

….All these points suggest that the financial crisis might better be thought of in two pieces, the initial tumult and the response, whose pernicious consequences lay ahead. Beyond the vast amount of public debt created during the crisis, the mere act of bailing out the institutions involved undermined the fear that Smith said was essential to prevent future fraud and negligence. What then is the alternative, if ever greater reliance on Mr Smith’s “man of system” and his flaws is to be avoided? In seeing what has unfolded, Smith would be forgiven if he were to ask an obvious question: how could his ideas and his name continue to be so widely circulated while their meaning is ignored? It is left to the reader to decide whether Smith can provide all the answers for the modern world.

Well to appreciate what Smith would have said, students have to be taught what he really wrote and thought about. As this is known by only a handful few, one cannot even debate these ideas..

Financial inclusion experiences from some countries..

January 29, 2015

IMF econs have released a paper on the same.

Findings are summarised here:


Does Microcredit work? it depends…

January 28, 2015

There are a series of papers evaluating impact of microcredit in 6 countries.

Justin Sandefur of CGDEV sums them further:


Is bancassurance model horribly anti-consumer?

January 27, 2015

Debashish Basu reflects on the recent policy on bancassurance model. He says banks anyway fleece customers for all kinds of fin products including insurance. The new guidelines give them a bigger licence to continue doing the same:


The Swiss shock…

January 16, 2015

There seems to be something brewing given two central banks made policy changes outside of their policy days. The disillusionment over growing powers of central banks is rising with every passing day. With governments in equal shambles, one does not know what really is the way out.

Swiss National Bank which had pegged its currency against expectations decided to remove the peg in a knee-jerk reaction. It also pushed the interst rates to a negative zone of -1.25% to -0,25%:


Mapping financial literacy to life cycle of individuals..

January 13, 2015

Parul Agrawal of IFMR-Lead has an interesting post on the topic.

She says most fin lit programs are one size fits all. This is unlikely to work as individuals shape differently as per their life cycle:


How a perfect storm is brewing in your financial future

January 9, 2015

It is amazing to note how things change. Before the crisis, econs talked really big about financial development, role of credit etc. Careers were made in area of finance in a big way. Credit growth was seen as a way for financial deepening and all kinds of things.

Cometh the crisis and all has changed. Now these trends are seen as a serious concern not just in present context but future one as well. Alan Taylor who with his coauthors has been researching these historic credit trends speaks on the dangers ahead:

Alan Taylor, a professor and Director of the Center for the Evolution of the Global Economy at the University of California, Davis, has conducted, along with Moritz Schularick, ground-breaking research on the history and role of credit, partly funded by the Institute for New Economic Thinking. He finds that today’s advanced economies depend on private sector credit more than anything we have ever seen before. His work and that of his colleagues call into question the assumption that was commonplace before 2008, that private credit flows are primarily forces for stability and predictability in economies.

If current trends continue, Taylor warns, our economic future could be very different from our recent past, when financial crises were relatively rare. Crises could become more commonplace, which will impact every stage of our financial lives, from cradle to retirement. Do we just fasten our seatbelts for a bumpy ride, or is there a way to smooth the path ahead? Taylor discusses his findings and thoughts about how to safeguard the financial system in the interview that follows.

He says how credit has risen and what that means:

Lynn Parramore: Looking back in history at 17 countries, you discovered something interesting about the private sector financial credit market. What did you find?

Alan Taylor: Our project compiled, for the first time, comprehensive aggregate credit data in the form of bank lending in 17 advanced countries since 1870, in addition to some important categories of lending like mortgages.

What we found was quite striking. Up until the 1970s, the ratio of credit to GDP in the advanced economies had been stable over the quite long run. There had been upswings and downswings, to be sure: from 1870 to 1900, some countries were still in early stages of financial sector development, an up trend that tapered off in the early 20th century; then in the 1930s most countries saw credit to GDP fall after the financial crises of the Great Depression, and this continued in WWII. The postwar era began with a return to previously normal levels by the 1960s, but after that credit to GDP ratios continued an unstoppable rise to new heights not seen before, reaching a peak at almost double their pre-WWII levels by 2008.

LP: How is the world of credit different today than in the past?

AT: The first time we plotted credit levels, well, we were almost shocked by our own data. It was a bit like finding the banking sector equivalent of the “hockey stick” chart (a plot of historic temperature that shows the emergence of dramatic uptrend in modern times). It tells us that we live in a different financial world than any of our ancestors.

This basic aggregate measure of gearing or leverage is telling us that today’s advanced economies’ operating systems are more heavily dependent on private sector credit than anything we have ever seen before. Furthermore, this pattern is seen across all the advanced economies, and isn’t just a feature of some special subset (e.g. the Anglo-Saxons). It’s also a little bit of a conservative estimate of the divergent trend, since it excludes the market-based financial flows (e.g., securitized debt) which bypass banks for the most part, and which have become so sizeable in the last 10-20 years.

LP: You’ve mentioned a “perfect storm” brewing around the explosion of credit. What are some of the conditions you have observed?

We have been able to show that this trend matters: in the data, when we observe a sharp run-up in this kind of leverage measure, financial crises have tended to become more likely; and when those crises strike, recessions tend to be worse, and even more painful in the cases where a large run-up in leverage was observed.

These are findings from 200+ recessions over a century or more of experience, and they are some of the most robust pieces of evidence found to date concerning the drivers of financial instability and the fallout that results. Once we look at the current crisis through this lens, it starts to look comprehensible: a bad event, certainly, but not outside historical norms once we take into account the preceding explosion of credit. Under those conditions, it turns out, a deep recession followed by a long sub-par recovery should not be seen as surprising at all. Sadly, nobody had put together this sort of empirical work before the crisis, but now at least we have a better guide going forward.



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