Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Global Finance

Reblogging from Huffington Post: What is Goldman Sach's Thinking?
What Is Goldman Sachs Thinking?
Simon Johnson
MIT Professor and co-author of 13 Bankers
Posted: June 29, 2010 06:43 AM

The next financial boom seems likely to be centered on lending to emerging markets. Sam Finkelstein, head of emerging markets debt at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, summed up the prevailing market view - and no doubt talked up his own positions - with a prominent quote in Monday's Financial Times (p.13, front of the Companies and Markets section):

"Debt-to-GDP ratios in the developed world are about double those in emerging markets and they're growing. This makes emerging markets interesting because you're pick up incremental spread [higher interest rates compared with developed world rates], and in return you're actually taking less macroeconomic risk.

This is a dangerous view for three reasons.

First, against all historical evidence, it assumes that the only macroeconomic risks we should worry about - in general or for emerging markets - are related to standard measures of government fiscal policy. "Less risk" and "more yield" was exactly what securitized subprime mortgages and their derivatives were purported to offer; this combination typically proves illusory.

Second, emerging markets got into serious trouble through private sector overborrowing both in the 1970s (Latin America, communist Poland and Romania) and in the 1990s (many parts of Asia). In some crises, the government stepped in and ended up holding a great deal of debt - but this does not change the fact that the exuberance was all about private sector banks (in the US and Europe) lending to private sector corporations (financial and nonfinancial) in a mispricing of risk that started out at modest levels but grew over the cycle.

Third, when your ability to borrow depends in part on the value of your collateral - see the academic work of Ben Bernanke and the experience of Japan in the late 1980s (e.g., the classic Hoshi-Kashyap volume) - then rising asset prices enable you to borrow more. This does not necessarily have to go bad in a macroeconomic sense, but experience over the last 30 years is not encouraging. Global moral hazard - the idea that someone will provide a bailout - does not mix well with free capital flows and this kind of financial accelerator.

Goldman Sachs knows all this, of course. But, as they will tell you correctly, reforming incentives or even discouraging this kind of cycle is definitely not their job. Their role is to make money, pure and pretty simple given their market share.

It's the responsibility of government to make the world financial system less dangerous. Judging from the G20 summit (see my comments on the communique) this weekend, we are making no progress at all in that direction.

Perception is perhaps as important as Production in driving finance today.
It seems Africa (Nigeria too) will get a chance at some of that speculative money.
It's cool. It's risky but I guess the Obamas and bankers are telling us that we like the risk.

4 comments:

DonCasiragi said...

I hope the speculative money goes from private to private not to public. Otherwise the cycle will continue. In any case, Goldman Sachs is always never to be trusted I think. Having those guys on the other side of the negotiating table mean you have to be doubly cautious..I hope our leaders are reading (this and Confessions of an Economic Hitman by Perkins and the Big Short by Michael Lewis).

Goldman Slacks...it burns

t said...

Very important point - funding private investments - but I don't think that's how it will play out. Probably will be more like Federal and State govt borrowing for "infrastructure" , which would be a good thing if the infrastructure actually came on line.

Money would flow to the businessperson in the street, maybe, if they restructure banking to lend to such. For now, no love; you have to be very elite to get standard services (loan, credit line, insurance, ...) I guess it will open up over time.

I also think there is no negotiating table really, I mean, how one-sided is a table with knowledge on one side and not many teamsters on the Africa side? So we can just play in this game and hope for the best.

I haven't read either book, but I've probably browsed or read about the Economic Hitman book. Dude, I keep saying how more of our kids need to be well educated, so when we need people at a negotiating table...
Then again, I doubt that the oil-money Gulf Middle Easterners exceed us in education, but they seem to invest better, maybe the leadership is cleaner, better values, fewer kleptos?

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