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  • Inflation is the many splendoured thing, then!
    One cannot really manufacture inflation overnightAn op-ed in the New York Times doing the rounds on Twitter, mentions the great inflation argument seemingly now the lead in Bernanke's set of tools to stimulate under
    IN all the commentary about Ben S. Bernanke’s recent speech in Jackson Hole, Wyo., little attention has been paid to six crucial words: “in a context of price stability.” Those words concluded a discussion by Mr. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, of what tools the central bank could consider appropriate to promote a stronger economic recovery.
    Ordinarily, a central banker’s affirming the importance of price stability is not headline news. But consider the setting. There is great and understandable disappointment about high unemployment and the absence of a robust economy, and even concern about the possibility of a renewed downturn. There is also a sense of desperation that both monetary and fiscal policy have almost exhausted their potential, given the size of the fiscal deficits and the already extremely low level of interest rates. So now we are beginning to hear murmurings about the possible invigorating effects of “just a little inflation.” Perhaps 4 or 5 percent a year would be just the thing to deal with the overhang of debt and encourage the “animal spirits” of business, or so the argument goes.
    A basis tenet of the above economic debate is that inflation is yet around the corner. Unfortunately, now even inflation goalpost seems to be past ( much like Matt Hasselbeck's QB career at Seattle till last year or if you are on this side of the pond, Liverpool in the field after a great financial recovery compared to the go to IPO Man United. One obviously conjures up very distinct personas in both games when one tries to recover a comeback) Very frankly, it is unlikely that inflation will be making a come back so easy. For one, my manufacturing production, not just in China or India where rates were tempering it, has gone under. Now when i want to stimulate all round growth and inflation, I end up with nada, zip, nothing. No inflation to speak of. I could have encouraged inflation when I had the chance. Unfortnately, in a market economy everyone thought things will stay good till everything came down together in June and housding or jobs never went up. Also buying an Operation Twist may fall short of raising expectations in the Economy, while a QE3 can burn the house down without any insurance to claim. So ..a tough call for the US economy and so the world for the next 6 months. Unfortunately, those bearish on America six months ago that lost in the punctured US Treasury yields too when they went short on US treasuries may be responsible for the above situation yet unable o see it themselves, seeing in their analysis a link to six months below but finally getting it right when they say growth is now a tougher proposition for the USof A
      "I'm more convinced we are headed in that direction," said Scott Mather, portfolio manager at PIMCO, the world's largest bond fund with $1.2 trillion in assets under management. "We might have an even harder time than Japan did."
    [caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]President Barack Obama confers with Federal Re...[/caption]
    Not all economists believe the United States will repeat the Japanese experience, but markets have been flashing warning signs. Three years after the United States' housing bubble burst, 10-year Treasury yields are struggling to stay above 2 percent, while stocks have declined every month since April. Japan's 10-year yield has not closed above 2 percent since 1999 and the Nikkei is 77 percent below a peak hit in 1990 before a commercial real estate bubble burst. U.S. economic output through the second quarter of 2011 has yet to surpass the level seen before the crisis hit in 2008 and may not do so soon; economists polled by Reuters give the country nearly one-in-three odds of falling back into recession over the next year. "The financial turmoil of the last three or four months has been the markets coming to terms with a period of prolonged slow growth," said Andrew Scott, professor of economics at London Business School. "With households paying down debt and not consuming, it's hard to see where growth will come from."
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    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
    Tags: Economy, US
    Sep 20 3:58 AM | Link | Comment!
  • Foreign Banks in India: The HSBC RBS Private Banking Sale

    RBS had committed to HSBC towards the sale of all its 31 branches and 100 retail / wealth staff to HSBC. It is yet questionable if HSBC could have absorbed all 1800 staff which continues to operate as ABN AMRO in the country since License transfers are a throny issue that from the point of view of the regulator should not have risen as the occasion to sell in each case is in question. 

    Since the deal signing in 2009/2010 when ANZ lost to the HSBC bid in India and Malaysia, there has been speculation peculiar to the Indian regulator's national requirements. None of the speculated objections have yet been resolved, additionally with RBS and ABN planning to come back to the country RBI has taken a harder stance on this apparent tomfoolery with buying and selling branches and networks . Among the first nonsensical results of immediate interest to RBI would have been the multiplicity of licences for the acquiring bank and the lack of branch approvals for HSBC once it as acquiring bank had surrendered the second licence per law with RBS. Even before the assumed non-event (buyers/sellers) though RBI has now found itself troubled by the fact that RBS wll continue to live in the country in isolation as also ANZ ( in its TV appearance by CEO Mike Smith on Bankers' Trust - B-UTV) plans to remain only in institutional business in India. ANZ, ICBC have one branch each in the new avatar, the most planned by RBS in its new role as a exclusively wholesal player in the country. 

    Media reports make it clear that RBI has made a unitary objection on the sale - that of the 32% priority lending commitment which precludes any option without retail branches and in factas the new charter sugggests, new branches in Tier 5 and 6 town. 

    Priority sector requirements are not new and all the 32 license holders in the country manage the same lending requirement without their own branches in the rural hinterland. Obviously those wholesale approaches are not the objective of the Priority sector lending regulation. 

    Global evidence of parochial regulation

    India's own ICICI Bank is curtailing international deposits in most geographies as local regulators want such deposits to be ringfenced for local disbursals. This instance is unlikely to be an isolated one and a ringfenced national structure is already mandated fo rmost banks but expensive to execute. The Indian regulator per force is under pressure to clarify  and safeguard India;'s interests in terms of adequate capital for local operations which has been found wanting by banks as they feel strained by restrictive voting and limitation on branch licenses among others, as aloso their inability to compete with Indian majors in retail footprint

    The Original Sale

    RBS sold the ABN AMRO business it acquired in the country while keeping the Global Banking and Markets Divisions along with the Global Transaction Services it acquired from ABN AMRO headed by Meera Sanyal. 

    BS of July 03, 2010

    RBS’ retail and commercial banking businesses in India house portfolios with a gross asset value of $1.8 billion

    (nearly Rs 8,400 crore) and have 1.1 million customer relationships, served by over 1,800 staff through

    31 branches currently.

    According to the terms of the agreement, 90 per cent of any credit losses incurred on RBS’ unsecured lending portfolio in the two years subsequent to the deal’s completion will be deducted from the $95-million premium to be paid over the tangible net asset value of the businesses.


    This was later deemed to be a portfolio sale and RBS was not allowed to transfer licenses as the banks were not incorporated in India and were only branches owned by foreign parents The Stanchart offer for the same sale was considerably lower as it expected the regulatory run ins to be discounted. ANZ that had earlier sold off its business to Stanchart and ABN have planned a return to India and again received licenses while being welcomed by their core consituency of customers in retail, do not expect to go beyond Transaction services and Capital Markets/Fixed Income / Syndicate lending



    Other thorny issues still remaining to be sorted out thus the picture that emerges is the following :


    1. Each branch still requires explicit RBI approval and none of the 32 players have been forthcoming in unitarily capitalising the India subsidiary for its leverage commitments as currently we all go by Internal Risk management approaches that count on a single Asia Pacific Balance sheet to sell loans to India corporates esp as the competitive advantae for us in Foreign banks is in arranging cheaper ECB loans and FC denominated swaps

    2. Licenses being conditional to Priority sector lending apart , there needs to be dialogue between banks and the local regulator with the Indian operation commiting that it has the authority and the reach to complete all its India commitments and RBI observations. For example Swaps create unseemly leverage and banks do not resolve the same as per tehir own internal risk management where approvakls are already received?

    3. Banks may feel stretched by the current requiremetns to commit 12 new breanches in a year as are automatically approved with the 32 foreign banks surviving on 320 branches for their nearly double digit share in Indian banking assets a\nd having avoided the changeover to WOS formats suggested in 2005 with INR 3 bln capital minimum . That this capital would have to satisfy basel and RBI norms on CAR locally queers the pitch for effective pricing for these banks and also in terms of global business sructures where entire regions operate on economics of large volumes that they will have to indeopendently build in India. 

    4. The banks do remain commited to growing in India, HSBC for example and till recently Citi heavily recruiting in the country in retail and wholesale. Banks remain the preferred stock recriter of MBAs led by Foreign banks in India

    5. A roadmap for ringfencing national operations has not been committed by BCBS ( Basel Committee) and banks have already calendarised ramp up of Capital per new standards till as late as 2018 and 2019 in view of the adverse strains on their global operations

    6. Foreign banks have not been able to get RBI  's specific approvals for any request for voting rights beyond the current limitation of 15% though there is no such limitation on purchase of individual stakes by the banks. HSBC had earlier planned to stay with Axis Bank as partner but had to make do with the solitary ILFS Investmart purchase

    7. New private banks are allowed FDI of 49% for 5 years and changes on voting limitations may be made in the Banking Regulation act as per demands. Many in pvt sector insurance also await allowing of increase of JV partners' equity expected to be approved to 49% since the last 6 ears but still hanging fire based on reform to holding limits acrossindustry per se

    8. The impression of RBI as an archaic regulator somehow persists in the global bank offices as of last count in terms of capital commitments to India operations being recounted as Comfort letters provided proved to be of no later consequence for the banks

    9. Even with local subsidiaries, RBI feels that Foreign banks commitment to the country is volatile with over 16% contraction in credit in 2009 and 8% in 2008 after reaching a so called "dominant" position in market share in 2007 

    RBI paper on Foreign Banks (2005) suggested a WOS structure be mandatory now for 0.25% of national banking assets or mor ein share (IIFL - RBI  paper )







    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
    Tags: GS, ING, RBS, HSBC, Banking
    Sep 20 3:56 AM | Link | Comment!
  • That inflation-growth paradigm and the Euro example | Advantage Research
    That inflation-growth paradigm and the Euro example | Advantage Research

    The FOMC notes (though sparse and sketchy) and the big brouhaha over QE2 dulled many a financial experts’ mind when it came to nodding with Ben and keeping (probably) their date with the superbowl.  The krugman phenomenon of course finally went out of sync with us ( and we believe growth) when he nodded with the price stability measures so becoming of the Euro since its millenium launch. Well, the relationship in nflation and growth is a tenuous one and price stability invites deflation. Thus this quick reminder to Economists out there and “Bob the Bear” as well. For inflation to grow growth, all that paranoia around a 3.5% inflation would have to shut itself down from its contradictions. It needs your Fed to give a stability goal that in FACT ALLOWS A 5% INFLATION and I think we can resume the growth path. We all now know why Europe managed to bankroll a price stability measure the first time around. That was lies, statistics and even forged governments.

    And that is a where we must come back to ponder rather than bury the similitude in the sand. The industry has started coming up with the answers, the paranoia around price stability is marring the punch, and QE3 and more are just because of a lot of quicksand that probably ( and again unwittingly) America is using to sandpaper the future where it will be no. 3 What ever that may be, healthy growth requires much as yen and dollar depreciation, a  sustained bout of inflation and though the nine feds may disagree,it should have been your book and not a running nose ahead of the “official target”

    Disclosure: I am short RSH.
    Jan 31 12:29 PM | Link | Comment!
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