14 JAN 2015.
When banks collapse - who pays?
In answer to your questions, the bank bail-in laws are complicated. Anticipating their impact is like trying to foresee 20 moves ahead in chess.
(New UK bank laws start on 1st January 2015)
My political view is that if we stick to The Free Markets - then the owners of banks etc should pay the bail out costs. In theory, but I doubt in practice, We the People - depositors and bank shareholders, will read our banks' balance sheets with zeal; we will stop executive greed entirely; we will insist on claw-back of bonuses and pensions; we will insist that casino-banking stops in our banks. We may even insist that auditors stop fiddling the books, report honestly, and bear financial responsibility for errors (as might happen at TESCO).
I note that inter-bank balances are largely exempted from risk; odd, as other banks are the only ones who might be able to read a rival's balance sheet and see danger looming.
Of course, we cannot know the true state of any bank - so we will be flying blind, waiting to lose our savings over £85K. I note the Free Market attack on Mutuals /Building Societies - converting non-risk savings into risky shares; which may drive small savers to the Big Banks.
If we are to have the risks heaped on our shoulders - then I forecast a new profession of Real-Audit - firms that watch bank executives and funny-money subsidiaries like hawks and sue to recover the losses they cause. A New Scientist article pointed out that nobody collects bank balance sheets data across the world - and compares them. It would be quite simple in bookkeeping terms to run a mandatory daily spreadsheet of all financial institutions - When totalled across the page, all the debits and credits would cancel to zero, leaving only the true bank-owned assets. But there are so many secrets to keep, not least tax-evasion-capital-flight, that this simple tool will only be applied after another massive failure and theft from small savers.
Greece - Greece (less than 2% of Europe) could balance its budgets next week if it repatriated the offshore tax-evasion-capital-flight on the lists hacked from Zurich (most from HSBC), passed to Christine Lagarde, now head of the IMF, who passed them to the Greek tax-collectors - who buried them. Shipping companies and families in Greece are tax exempt. I guess anyone who is anybody in Greece, pays no taxes and siphons out all capital. The Greek Diaspora could re-fund the Greek economy - but the nation and its exiles choose not to. This is one reason why the EU gets pissed off by Greece. The other is that for decades Greece has been a major net recipient of billions from the EU - all immediately diverted from the intended projects - to tax-havens. They are a bunch of spivs. You can read the list here:
What will happen? I think a socialist government will take power - and take the populist route of writing off Greek Debt - at the expense of the EU. Greeks of all persuasions do not pay tax. It could tip the EU's hand to aggressively action long, tediously planned, bureaucratic steps towards Fair Tax - particularly for Greece, Italy, Spain and the UK. But it may have to wait until President Juncker, the Luxembourg "industrial scale" tax-dodging PM resigns as head of the EU.
(FROM EURODAD: 13th Jan 15 - FAIR TAX - Please accept this brief update on the European Parliament's response to the LuxLeaks scandal.
As you know, we have been calling for the EP to establish an inquiry committee. Although the proposal has been met with resistance the idea is still alive. At the latest count 165 of 188 needed signatures from MEPs have been collected, and significantly a few EPP representatives have now also signed, including the powerful EPP vice-chair of the ECON committee (Economic and Monetary Affairs).)
The banks are of course at the heart of all tax-evasion-capital-flight, particularly London banks.
As I said, I think governments will do whatever is needed to maintain confidence in the banks and currencies - even total nationalisation if needed.
(Mr) Noel Hodson16 Brookside, OXFORD,
13 Jan 2015
Hi John and Tony
Thanks for the emails and papers. I am interested in such matters - but I comment as a very cautious and small investor. My eldest brother Richard was a Chartist (extrapolating past graphs to make forecasts) and he gambled - often cleverly and profitably - but ultimately gambling in commodities, land (in Mellor), currencies and metals, wiped him out - and very nearly bankrupted my father who followed Richard's recommendations. So I am cautious.
Taking McHugh's Forecasts for 2015:
STOCKS - Gamblers love a volatile Stock Market. Steady growth is boring. However, the fixed assets underpinning most public companies are a significant part of the global real-economy and overall, on average, they keep pace with that other stable asset - land and property. With offshore cash growing at $1 trillion a year (now more than $32 trillion, 80 million good jobs) we can expect volatility in all real-economy markets as the money-economy (paper) thrashes around.
GOLD ETC - Gambler's delight in King Copper and other metals. They are part of the real-economy and will always retain a real-value. However, most Metals are subject to fads and fashions, fears and hopes and bent manipulation of prices. I agree that gold has a utility value in science. But it is not as rare as supposed. I had a client who bought bars of Cornish Tin 40 years ago - he still has them and they have kept pace with the money-economy.
OIL & ENERGY - Who forecast the halving of oil prices from Sept 2014 to date? It is political, to try to bring Putin to heel (I think that will fail) but is also based in the reality that more fossil fuels are being found. We haven't even touched the immense frozen deposits of methane in Russia's tundra. So fossil fuels in the real-economy will fall in price. Several OECD countries are using ever increasing amounts of green energy (despite the press reports) which will reduce the price of fossil fuels. McHugh doesn't analyse the impact of global warming - losing coastal margins and causing migration. Clean & Dirty Energy prices will take warming into account.
RUSSIA - Is not collapsing. This "news" is in the Fox News category that "Birmingham UK is a violent no-go Muslim City!" Really? The danger to the money-economy is that Putin will turn away from the dollar as the world's reserve currency, and will create other currencies with India, China, Africa and South America. Russia has massive real-assets, land, energy and people who did put the first man into space.
RISING DEBT and CURRENCIES. I don't have much faith in the intelligence of bankers, but they do have the professional job of keeping the money-economy large and fluid enough to serve the ever expanding real-economy. The World has always had rising debt and depreciating currencies as the population and our inventiveness and productivity grows - and always will. Today, computers could launch a new currency, pegged to the reality of what most people want to transact in their real lives, in a few months. Bankers are sometimes crazed gamblers (or thieves) who mistake paper for real assets - but reality re-asserts its dominance very quickly. I assume that all those national treasuries, Wall St and The City etc do have some inkling of the problems that McHugh fears - and make plans to adjust the money-economy accordingly. I think that our children and grandchildren will not meekly sit by and save up for 15 years to buy a washing machine; however much we preach austerity at them. Ditto for houses. People will continue to want real things - and will adjust the paper-economy to get them; think back to TV Rentals in the sixties - and, horror piled upon horror, foretelling the End of The World as our parents knew it - "Credit Cards".
Half the world's population is very, very poor. They want stuff - real-economy products; and will find ways to get that stuff. Production, automated production, is and will continue to rise to meet the consumer demand. To oil the wheels more paper has to be printed to enable the transactions: e.g. 200 new homes in Cheshire at £500,000 per home MUST have £100M of new mortgages to enable the transactions. QE is only putting back a small fraction of the $32 trillion siphoned out to tax-havens; which, if it sits in Banana Banks long enough, will become worthless as the real-economy rolls by it. (Very Long Term - prices of goods will reduce to the value of the basic raw materials + land. Computerisation will replace all human repetitive labour).
McHugh's "screen generation" will not sit idly by while we frightened old men try to slow the economy back to the 1930's walking pace. Economists must widen their basic (usually hopelessly flawed) calculations of Land x Labour x Capital to include - Land Labour Capital & The Internet. Youth will not tolerate collapsing markets. Lets get back to work in the real-economy.
Deflation: It depends on the definition. I think that prices of goods will reduce, due mostly to automation and to mass emerging markets of people with little income. UK Housing is still skilled labour intensive, so I don't expect to see that part of house prices to deflate - but we have deflated mortgage interest and builders' bank interest, which was about 25% of the market cost. Land prices will increase. Low interest rates are the present underlying main cause of reducing prices because interest and bank charges are added at every stage of production and distribution - typically ten stages from e.g. farm to plate.
Deflation of prices is good for the majority. It only becomes dangerous if it is caused by fear of collapse, in turn causing the majority to stop being active in the economy. If the world stops working, everyone is at risk. I don't think that will happen. QE re-boots the economy.
Banks - I think the world will do whatever it takes to keep confidence and liquidity flowing. I can see some scenarios where all banks will nationalised - at least for a time. It is dangerous to have private interests in a position to print and distribute national money. But would we want our bank managers to be civil servants?
Jobs - Our meetings about telework and the Internet - in Brussels from 1992 to 1998, concluded that most repetitive jobs would be automated and that most of us in OECD countries would work far less. I think this has happened. The answer to millions of under-employed lost souls was Lifelong Education. The greatest difficulty is to find new ways of distributing automatically produced real-wealth, without soup kitchen queues. But I think it will be achieved. After all, the bulk of the unemployed are our own grandchildren. There will also be major new hi-tech industries but they will not need mass workers.
WE HAVE WORKED HARD TO ABOLISH WORK - AND SUCCEEDED (compared to factory and field hands pre-1920).
Now back to my damned tax returns.
OK those are your views.
Will you be surprised if there is deflation?
And what do you think about the bank bail-in regimes being put in place all across the world?
It is one thing saying lets get back to work in the real economy but in fact there are a vast number of people without jobs, almost certainly a lot more than the politicians say, is there an answer to that?