2010年1月7日木曜日

ホーニグ 米大手金融解体は資本主義の基本

ホーニグは、資本主義の基本を主張した。
 米カンザスシティー連銀のホーニグ総裁は、米政府は破たんした大手
金融機関の秩序ある解体を認める法的プロセスを構築する必要があると
指摘した。

米国の地方銀行の多くが次々と破綻となったが、大手金融機関だけが
援助を受けている。資本主義の基本原理を無視していると言われ続けて
きたが、同じことを主張したようだ。政策を作って、投資部門を分離する
と言う具体的な案も出たが、法案とまではいかないようだ。
政策が実現したら、もしかして、米国は債務不履行かもしれない。

ケン・ルイス 公的支援は金のなる木

---カンザスシティー連銀総裁:大手金融機関の破たん処理へ法整備を---
更新日時: 2010/01/06 02:20 JST
http://www.bloomberg.co.jp/apps/news?pid=90920008&sid=a5ZT5RERGUDw

 1月5日(ブルームバーグ):米カンザスシティー連銀のホーニグ総裁は5日、米政府は破たんした大手金融機関の秩序ある解体を認める法的プロセスを構築する必要があると指摘した。
  ホーニグ総裁はアトランタでの会議で「効果的な資本主義のシステムにおいては、さまざまな機関の破たんや、その後の更生が認められるべきだ」と指摘。「大き過ぎてつぶせないとされる問題への対応が不可欠だ」と述べた。
  同総裁は「わたしは基本的な、最小限の規則の支持者だ。こうした規則はシンプルで理解可能、また執行しやすいものだ」とした上で、融資比率の条件など、それは「有益な」ものであると続けた。


---米大手銀「解体する政策を」 カンザスシティー連銀総裁---
http://www.nikkei.co.jp/news/kaigai/20100106AT2N0501G06012010.html

 【ワシントン=岩本昌子】米カンザスシティー連邦準備銀行のホーニグ総裁は5日、ジョージア州アトランタ市で開かれた公開討論に参加し、「大きすぎてつぶせない」とされてきた米大手金融機関について、「解体する政策を考えなければ、また同様の金融危機に陥る危険性がある」と語った。米ダウ・ジョーンズ通信が伝えた。
 同総裁は今月26日から始まる米連邦公開市場委員会(FOMC)から投票権を持つ。大手商業銀行が手がける投資銀行業務は「恐らく行うべきでない。切り離す必要があるのでは」との見解を示した。(10:24)


---資金吸収、FRBが新制度 余剰資金を「定期預金」---
http://www.nikkei.co.jp/news/kaigai/20091230AT2M2900E29122009.html

 【ワシントン=御調昌邦】米連邦準備理事会(FRB)は金融危機対応で大量供給した資金を吸収するため、新制度を導入する方針だ。危機時の金融政策を平時に戻す「出口戦略」に向け、あらかじめ資金吸収の手段を準備する。ただ「目先の金融政策変更を意味するものではない」とし、早期の利上げ観測につながらないように市場をけん制した。
 FRBが計画している新制度は「ターム(期間)物の預金制度」。民間金融機関が余剰資金をFRBに定期預金するような仕組みで、参加は入札式。FRBが資金を吸収したい期間を設定し、金融機関が希望運用金利を提示して応札する。
 落札した金融機関は期間中はFRBから資金を引き出せず、その資金が市場から吸収される。入札は原則2週間ごとに実施し、期間は1~6カ月を想定している。(29日 22:26)

---Fed's Hoenig backs bank break-ups where needed---
Tue Jan 5, 2010 3:18pm EST
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60432520100105

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A top Federal Reserve official on Tuesday backed stripping banks of risky operations, suggesting growing support for breaking up large firms to prevent excesses that could undermine financial stability.

At a meeting of top economists here, Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Thomas Hoenig voiced support for former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker's recommendation that banks not be allowed to sponsor hedge or equity funds.

However, also like Volcker, Hoenig stopped short of calling for restoration of Glass-Steagall banking laws that barred large banks from affiliating with securities firms and engaging in the insurance business.

Hoenig said areas where firms engaged in risky trading or "gambling" for their own account should be separated from commercial banking activities, as Volcker had suggested.

He told a panel at an American Economics Association conference it was important to safeguard the commercial banking sector from the riskier practices once the sole domain of investment banks, given the sector's importance to both the U.S. and global economies.

Glass-Steagall barriers were largely repealed in 1999, a high-water mark for deregulation. Some members of Congress have proposed reinstating them as part of comprehensive financial reforms aimed at fixing flaws that set the stage for the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

However, some influential lawmakers, including Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, have said restoring the walls between investment and commercial banking activities is unlikely.

Hoenig, an experienced bank regulator, made clear he was not advocating such a big step.

"We have to go back and think of some of the reasons why this came about at these very large institutions -- without changing the structure that eliminated Glass-Steagall -- and the consequences of that," he said.

A bill to overhaul financial rules approved by the House of Representatives in early December would allow regulators to force firms to restructure or break up in extreme cases.

The Senate is expected to work on its version of the bill early this year. The two versions would need to be melded and approved by both chambers before the president could sign them into law.

Hoenig, who cut his teeth as a bank regulator shuttering institutions during the banking crisis in the early 1980s, has been a persistent advocate of making it impossible for financial firms to become so large or interconnected that markets believe the government would bail them out rather than let them fail.

He joins Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher in advocating breaking up financial institutions to curb risks to the broader system.

Breaking apart very large firms "is a fair thing to consider," he said.

(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal, Editing by Andrea Ricci)


---If Fed Missed This Bubble, Will It See a New One?---
By DAVID LEONHARDT
Published: January 5, 2010
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/06/business/economy/06leonhardt.html

If only we’d had more power, we could have kept the financial crisis from getting so bad.

That has been the position of Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, and other regulators. It explains why Mr. Bernanke and the Obama administration are pushing Congress to give the Fed more authority over financial firms.

So let’s consider what an empowered Fed might have done during the housing bubble, based on the words of the people who were running it.

In 2004, Alan Greenspan, then the chairman, said the rise in home values was “not enough in our judgment to raise major concerns.” In 2005, Mr. Bernanke - then a Bush administration official - said a housing bubble was “a pretty unlikely possibility.” As late as May 2007, he said that Fed officials “do not expect significant spillovers from the subprime market to the rest of the economy.”

The fact that Mr. Bernanke and other regulators still have not explained why they failed to recognize the last bubble is the weakest link in the Fed’s push for more power. It raises the question: Why should Congress, or anyone else, have faith that future Fed officials will recognize the next bubble?

Just this week, Mr. Bernanke went to the annual meeting of academic economists in Atlanta to offer his own history of Fed policy during the bubble. Most of his speech, though, was a spirited defense of the Fed’s interest rate policy, complete with slides and formulas, like (pt - pt*) > 0. Only in the last few minutes did he discuss lax regulation. The solution, he said, was “better and smarter” regulation. He never acknowledged that the Fed simply missed the bubble.

This lack of self-criticism is feeding Congressional hostility toward the Fed. Mr. Bernanke is still likely to win confirmation for a second term, based on his aggressive and creative policies once the crisis began. But Congress hasn’t decided whether to expand his regulatory authority and is considering reining in the Fed’s other main mission - setting interest rates.

A once-marginal proposal - from Representative Ron Paul, the Texas Republican - that would give Congress the power to review interest rate decisions recently passed the House and will soon be considered by the Senate.

Economists are generally horrified by this idea. If Congress could force Fed officials to answer questions about every interest rate move, the process could easily become politicized. A politicized central bank is a first step toward runaway inflation.

But politicizing monetary policy isn’t the only mistake Congress could make. It also could end up going in the other direction and handing Fed officials more power without asking them to grapple with their failures.

When Mr. Bernanke is challenged about the Fed’s performance, he often points out that recognizing a bubble is hard. “It is extraordinarily difficult,” he said during his Senate confirmation hearing last month, “to know in real time if an asset price is appropriate or not.”

Most of the time, that’s true. Do you know if stocks will keep going up? Is gold now in the midst of a bubble? What will happen to your house’s value? Questions like these are usually an invitation to hubris.

But the recent housing bubble was an exception. By any serious measure, houses in much of this country had become overvalued. From the late 1960s to 2000, the ratio of the median national house price to median income hovered from 2.9 to 3.2. By 2005, it had shot up to 4.5. In some places, buyers were spending twice as much on their monthly mortgage payment as they would have spent renting a similar house, without even considering the down payment.

More than a few people - economists, journalists, even some Fed officials - noticed this phenomenon. It wasn’t that hard, if you were willing to look at economic fundamentals. You couldn’t know exactly when or how far prices would fall, but it seemed clear they were out of control. Indeed, making that call was similar to what the Fed does when it sets interest rates: using concrete data to decide whether some part of the economy is too hot (or too cold).

And Fed officials could have had a real impact if they had decided to attack the bubble. Imagine if Mr. Greenspan, then considered an oracle, announced he was cracking down on wishful-thinking mortgages, as he had the authority to do.

So why did Mr. Greenspan and Mr. Bernanke get it wrong?

The answer seems to be more psychological than economic. They got trapped in an echo chamber of conventional wisdom. Real estate agents, home builders, Wall Street executives, many economists and millions of homeowners were all saying that home prices would not drop, and the typically sober-minded officials at the Fed persuaded themselves that it was true. “We’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis,” Mr. Bernanke said on CNBC in 2005.

He and his colleagues fell victim to the same weakness that bedeviled the engineers of the Challenger space shuttle, the planners of the Vietnam and Iraq Wars, and the airline pilots who have made tragic cockpit errors. They didn’t adequately question their own assumptions. It’s an entirely human mistake.

Which is why it is likely to happen again.

What’s missing from the debate over financial re-regulation is a serious discussion of how to reduce the odds that the Fed - however much authority it has - will listen to the echo chamber when the next bubble comes along. A simple first step would be for Mr. Bernanke to discuss the Fed’s recent failures, in detail. If he doesn’t volunteer such an accounting, Congress could request one.

In the future, a review process like this could become a standard response to a financial crisis. Andrew Lo, an M.I.T. economist, has proposed a financial version of the National Transportation Safety Board - an independent body to issue a fact-finding report after a crash or a bust. If such a board had existed after the savings and loan crisis, notes Paul Romer, the Stanford economist and expert on economic growth, it might have done some good.

Whether we like it or not, the Fed really does seem to be the best agency to regulate financial firms. (It now has authority over only some firms.) As the lender of last resort, it already has a vested interest in the health of those firms. The Fed’s prestige also tends to give it its pick of people who want to work on economic policy.

“The Federal Reserve has unparalleled expertise,” Mr. Bernanke told Congress last month. “We have a great group of economists, financial market experts and others who are unique in Washington in their ability to address these issues.”

Fair enough. At some point, though, it sure would be nice to hear those experts explain how they missed the biggest bubble of our time.


---Economists place blame for own failures on banks---
8:36 p.m. Tuesday, January 5, 2010
By Richard Posner
http://www.ajc.com/opinion/economists-place-blame-for-267894.html

The financial industry collapse of September 2008 and the ensuing precipitate decline of the entire economy taught many lessons, both economic and political.

The principal economic lesson is the inherent instability of the financial sector and the consequent need for alert, intelligent regulation.

Banking, broadly defined to embrace all financial intermediation, is basically a matter of borrowing short at low interest rates and lending long at higher rates. It is risky because short-term capital can be withdrawn suddenly, leaving the lender stuck with long-term loan commitments, and because lending long exposes it to greater risks than lending short does, which is why long-term rates are higher than short-term ones.

The risks are amplified if regulation is lax and inattentive, as it proved to be. Unsound monetary policy under Alan Greenspan, and his successor as chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, caused interest rates to plunge between 2001 and 2004.

The plunge triggered a rise in housing prices (because homes are an asset bought mainly with debt), which turned into a self-sustaining bubble that eventually burst. Housing prices plummeted, carrying the banking industry down too because the industry was so heavily invested in housing finance.

Had the Fed been on its toes, it would have pricked the bubble by raising interest rates before housing prices had risen to absurd heights.

Alternatively, had the Fed and other regulators realized how risky lending had become and used their considerable authority to prevent banks from taking risks that endangered the economy, the collapse of the real estate market wouldn’t have precipitated a collapse of banking and all the economic misery that ensued.

Government had become complacent about the economy. It thought the financial markets were self-regulating. It thought we could have very low interest rates without inflation while ignoring asset-price inflation.

The Fed and the other regulators ignored the rise of the shadow banking industry, consisting of firms such as Bear Stearns Cos., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Merrill Lynch & Co., which took even more risks than commercial banks did because no part of their capital was federally insured and because they were even more loosely regulated than commercial banks.

The central bank prepared no contingency plans for a banking collapse, and months after the handwriting was on the wall allowed Lehman to fail, which precipitated a run on other shadow banks and brought the global financial system to a standstill.

The Fed and the Treasury belatedly poured hundreds of billions of dollars into the banking industry to save it from bankruptcy, but the banks were and still are too weak to provide the loans that the economy needs to recover.

Anyway, demand for loans is down because consumers are overindebted as a result of their borrowing spree made possible by the Fed having pushed interest rates down to absurdly low levels, and because business is doing little investing.

The errors made by the government were consistent with the advice of a majority of academic economists. Confidence in economists’ understanding of the economy has been shaken.

The major political lesson of the past two years is that profound economic slumps have profound political consequences. Government officials past and present, having been deeply implicated in the unsound regulatory policies that triggered the financial collapse and ensuing downward spiral in output and employment, are reluctant to blame regulation. Instead they blame the bankers, whom they label greedy, reckless and irresponsible.

They do not realize - or if they realize, don’t care - that competition forces people to take risks that maximize their expected profits.

And that it was unsound regulatory policies, resulting in low interest rates that produced asset-price inflation and a failure to limit the risk-taking of bankers, that pushed bankers into taking risks that endangered the entire world economy.

Blaming the bankers has led to counterproductive responses to the economic crisis. It has strengthened political pressures to reduce bankers’ incomes, which can only reduce the competitiveness of banks in what has become a thoroughly internationalized financial industry; to complicate an already excessively complex system of financial regulation; to prop up housing prices, postponing the day of reckoning when those prices fall to the level that equates demand and supply; and to run huge deficits in the hope of reducing unemployment.

President Barack Obama has denounced “fat cat bankers” and told them to lend to small business. Blamed for taking too many risks, the banks are thus being told to take more risks, at the same time that their once-burned-twice-shy regulators are tightening control over bank lending. The bankers must be dizzy!

As the economy gradually improves, with the help of unprecedented deficits, fear of an aftershock of inflation grows. The nation’s economic future has become clouded.

In the era of economic complacency that ended in September 2008, economists in and out of government by their advocacy and actions planted the seeds of an economic crisis that has shifted economic power from free markets to government. The consequences may be dire.

Richard Posner is a U.S. Court of Appeals judge for the 7th Circuit and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. The opinions expressed are his own.

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