A seesaw for three

I have heard many things in my life, there was a motorcyclist with a lack of discipline for speed run straight into Bus 70 in Rotterdam (the Netherlands), the consequence is that his brain got tactiled by his motor helmet; neither him nor his helmet was able to overcome the pressure of driving into the side of a bus at full speed. There was a girl jogging on the train tracks, her jogging in the rhythm of the music, she never heard the train whistle, the train was not able to slow down in time, she did not go faster, the girl lost the encounter, the train did not suffer injury!

All this relates to the item at hand, when we consider the seesaw (many child joyed at the mystery of that temporary conundrum) we see that it is a simple game of equilibrium. I push, my partner goes down, my partner pushes, I go down; there is little mystery in this exercise. So, what happens when we have a third player? When we have a double up on either side, that side goes down until that sides kicks off again, the bigger the difference the harder the action. However, there is a second version, in that version party number three is in the centre, on the seesaw axis, there this party defines the balance. That game seems nice, but it is no longer a game, the gamers at the end of the seesaw seem to get nullified playing. This is how I see what happened in the last 48 hours.

The most interesting source in this case is a site called ‘Quartz’ (at http://qz.com/327410/absolutely-everything-you-need-to-understand-what-happened-to-the-swiss-franc-this-week/), with this quote being the most interesting one “Because it was creating new francs and using them to buy euros, the SNB’s currency holdings exploded. This is hugely important. In the United States, the Fed is buying the safest financial instrument in the world, US government bonds. It can hold those bonds until they mature and be virtually assured it will be paid back. The SNB, on the other hand, is acquiring a giant pile of currencies that can whipsaw in value, potentially exposing the bank to large losses“, it is interesting for two reasons. First of all there is this part: ‘the safest financial instrument in the world, US government bonds‘ and there is ‘The SNB is acquiring a giant pile of currencies that can whipsaw in value, exposing the bank to large losses‘. I took a few unessential words out of the second quote. What we get is with one, that the illusion that US government bonds are the safest. With a president unable to control its spending, the US is about to start new wars, setting them back billions, the Dow Jones Index is trusted less and less, whilst in addition more sources are stating that a stock market crash will happen any day now (at http://www.moneynews.com/MKTNews/Market-Collapse-Finance-Stocks/2013/03/01/id/492699/). I have no value on moneynews.com, what they show looks nice, but charts can be explained in more than one way and what is ‘disastrous’ to some, can be explained away by others. I have had similar thoughts on the changes to the markets, but not based on these charts.

So as the stock market would collapse, the dollar would take a massive dive. The Dollar is about to take a dive because it is so intertwined with the Euro in many ways, so as the Euro takes a tumble, so will that mighty ‘safe’ dollar (not to mention the 18 trillion of debt). So now we get the second issue, if the danger to the SNB (Swiss National Bank) is so volatile, why take any risk at all. You see, the Americans (some not too bright) went after all these rich billionaires hiding their funds outside of the US. So the Swiss always played along, because if push came to shove, they had American billions, perhaps even a thousand of them (trillion dollar joke), which means that the risk was relatively small. As America hunted down these artful tax dodgers, those Americans struck deals and took away their cash, so why should the Swiss take any risk for the irresponsible spenders on end of the seesaw? It’s like there is one European on one side, two Americans on the other side and Switzerland was on the axial holding the mess in balance. Now, the axle player stops playing and we get this mess.

So when we see “The bank’s foreign currency holdings have grown to about 75% of GDP” and “So the SNB decided to abandon the ceiling on the franc, in response, the spring-loaded franc shot higher“, makes perfect sense. Why should a nation with a relative low debt hold this much in risk? So now we get a new dance! “The SNB’s decision to suddenly go back on a previous policy it had claimed to be committed to will make markets think twice before taking the bank at its word. That’ll make monetary policy tougher to carry out in the future” shows two sides, one is he term ‘previous policy’. That sounds pretty nice that Switzerland is shown as ‘the bad guy’, yet, is that true? Policy is one thing, but it requires accountability on the other side, for the Franc with a ceiling is one thing, the fact that the roof might be made from papier mâché during a blizzard is not good news if you are Swiss in nature, the ceiling issues requires actions from all involved players. Especially when the foreign currency holdings of Switzerland is set at roughly 75% of GDP (going by the numbers QZ is showing), if you doubt this, then I ask you to remember that small place called Cyprus, when that went pear shaped, the Cypriots were left holding an empty bag (a little under 2 years ago). I am not at all surprised that the Swiss want a better option for themselves and getting out whilst they can is not the worst idea. The last part is seen in this quote: “five years after the worst of the global financial crisis and Great Recession, the world still seems to be tip-toeing toward a deflationary vortex. It will take serious political efforts from governments and central banks to move against the tide. The ECB finally shows signs of joining the fight, which is a good thing. But the SNB’s decision suggests that some governments are giving up and just letting the current carry them away“, this I need to do in the following parts:

  1. It will take serious political efforts from governments and central banks to move against the tide‘, America has not kept their debt in check (as well as the ‘big’ Euro 4), it is still growing with a change of the guard (US presidential re-election) as well as the fact that another US debt ceiling is reached within the next 8 weeks. Add to that the Euro taking a few extra hits, this all adds up to a massive risk to Switzerland.
  2. The SNB’s decision suggests that some governments are giving up and just letting the current carry them away‘, this is the killer. The currency effort of not maintaining its value is implied as the Euro goes down (implied, not a given), in addition we see the Greek news ‘Inside its smoke-filled HQ, the far-left party is making plans to defy the EU over Greece’s debt and abolish draconian austerity measures imposed to shore up the euro‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/17/greek-elections-syriza-europe-eurozone-alexis-tsipras), so next week, if this becomes an issue, the Euro takes another big bashing because the Greeks could not contain themselves or the debt that they had created (their governments), so now the other players must pay for the short-sightedness of the Greeks. Why are there not more political parties very outspoken in this regard? I mean with the debt at hand, your private island could be a nice future (I’ll take ownership of Paros for 499 Euro)!

These elements are all in play, yet no one considered the effect of the risks. That empty headedness (as I personally see it), this part becomes visible when we look at ‘Swiss Franc Trade Is Said to Wipe Out Everest’s Main Fund‘ (at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2015-01-17/swiss-franc-trade-is-said-to-wipe-out-everest-s-main-fund.html). This is all interesting, especially “Everest Capital’s Global Fund had about $830 million in assets as of the end of December, according to a client report. The Miami-based firm, which specializes in emerging markets, still manages seven funds with about $2.2 billion in assets. The global fund, the firm’s oldest, was betting the Swiss franc would decline“. Did we not see this before (was it in 2004 or 2008)?

When we consider the additional “The SNB’s decision to end its three-year policy of capping the franc at 1.20 a euro triggered losses at Citigroup Inc., Deutsche Bank AG and Barclays Plc as well as hedge funds and mutual funds“, which is due to the line ‘including a wager that the Swiss franc would fall‘. So if that is the case then several people made a very ‘dumb’ wager. The question becomes ‘did they make a bad wager, or was this orchestrated’?

There is no way for me to prove that there was any intent (I am not saying there was any orchestration, only asking on the chance of it). Yet, does this not represent another case of putting a few billion eggs in one basket? Yes, I agree that the statement “The franc surged as much as 41 percent versus the euro on Jan. 15, the biggest gain on record, and climbed more than 15 percent against all of the more than 150 currencies tracked by Bloomberg”, consider when we see the light of the seesaw, and the 75% of GDP that the SNB holds in foreign currency. When it makes this leap against the said 150 currencies, how much discipline are some currency controllers not showing in light of the earlier quote ‘some governments are giving up and just letting the current carry them away‘. Perhaps the question that Katherine Burton (the writer) at Bloomberg should be asking is “How come such managed levels of foreign currency holdings were left out in the open to this extend, especially after the Cyprus issue” is a question that should have run with every front page on the planet (at least 4 weeks ago), so it is not just the SNB that is now getting the spotlight, my questions becomes, which decision makers are now hiding in the shadows for allowing such levels of risk. It seems to me that a ‘policy’ is a poor excuse when people frown on the SNB, whilst not asking how it was allowed these levels of foreign holdings in the first place.

So when we look at the Guardian ‘Swiss currency crisis claims casualties across the world‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jan/16/west-ham-sponsor-alpari-swiss-currency-crisis) “This has resulted in the majority of clients sustaining losses that have exceeded their account equity. Where a client cannot cover this loss, it is passed on to us”, so how many were ‘gambling’ that the Swiss Franc would take a dive and why did no one foresee this risk (when you bet the house and all your belongings on a ‘safe’ bet, you only have yourself to thank for moving to a carton box). The last statement sounds a little crass, but we saw this before then hedge funds took a dive, so why is there a lack of these checks and balances? Yet there is more, the Guardian has two more quotes that show the dangers here “We are very different to Alpari, which was designed for people who want to speculate” and “But I’m surprised they went bust so quickly. Ultimately, they should be able to go back to the client to recover the money they lost” which is the part I expected initially. When we see these levels of speculation, the question becomes, who was checking the window for icebergs ahead?

Finally there is one quote at the beginning, which I steered around. The quote “Shares in FXCM slumped 40% ahead of a formal announcement about its future after it admitted it faced $225m of losses“, should keep you thinking. Consider the question, that one currency jump could have this drastic an effect on Forex Capital Markets, the online Foreign exchange market broker based in the US. So, even though this could happen, the fact that it did, seems to be a nightmare for several players. All this and then we see the most astounding part in Forbes (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2015/01/17/this-is-just-too-lovely-about-fxcm-just-too-lovely-for-words/). Here we see “It’s not entirely obvious that those higher margin requirements would have saved FXCM but still, that is fun, isn’t it? They lobbied against the rules that would have protected them“, if you read the article, you get the whole picture (I was not willing to use three entire paragraphs there), so the need for ‘better’ margins pretty much costed them the farm in the last few days and even though Forex might survive, we need to take a harsh look at the ‘gambling’ that has happened, not just because of the gamblers, but the entire ‘policy’ part from the SNB does not sit well with me. With Cyprus 2 years ago, this issue should never have been allowed to exist in the first place, so before we start blaming and lynching Swiss people, let’s make sure that we get a complete list of all the currencies and the values that Switzerland was holding on 75% of their GDP, because we should be asking those involved parties a few questions on irresponsible parking such amounts.

Tim Worstall wrote the gem in Forbes, but neither him or those who set out the parts in Bloomberg and the Guardian are looking at the bigger picture (as I personally see it), as this economy was playing a game of seesaw, how did these adult players not realise that the person on the axial (SNB) was going to lose interest being at risk on the axle, whilst the other two sides were having the joys and benefits of controlled up and down movements.

The evidence as I see it is a simple as watching children play in the playground, the axle position of the seesaw is not the favourite place to be, not even for a short time!

 

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2 Comments

Filed under Finance, Law, Politics

2 responses to “A seesaw for three

  1. Pingback: Questions that follow | Lawrence van Rijn - Law Lord to be

  2. Pingback: True torture | Lawrence van Rijn - Law Lord to be

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